Category Archives: #nowplaying

I Barritas

My version of church this Easter Sunday: a sideways but endearingly sincere take on the Catholic mass via an Italian psych/beat/rock band called either I Barritas, The Berets, or The Little Berets, depending on which part of the liner notes you’re looking at.

A quick snippet of those liner notes, which were written in March of 1969:

All over the world, adults have been and are concerned about the seemingly increasing lack of concern by today’s youth, of spiritual and moral values. Perhaps this is not really so. Perhaps, they simply don’t accept ours and are searching for new ways of expression which relate to their own everyday lives. With the new music of the pop field has come a new spirit, which has suggested an intense need for peace, war against violence, freedom for all peoples, a struggle against prejudice, against any special privilege or advantage … which motivates the youth of the whole world.

It is a good or bad sign that those words ring so true 50 years later? It’s hard to say. But Easter is about hope and new beginnings and who knows … maybe 2069 will be a little better than 2019.

 

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Oregon

Thought I’d pass along an interesting Goodwill find — Winter Light, an album released in 1974 by the jazz ensemble Oregon.

I picked it up in late March, and I can’t seem to file this thing away. The sounds are so varied that it always feels like I’m getting a fleeting glance at something. Songs dart back and forth between classical, jazz, folk, and fusion. Sounds from varied musical traditions show up, disappear, and reappear like pedestrians criss-crossing a quiet intersection at night. A quick list of the instruments mentioned in the liner notes: English horn, French horn, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, bass, piano, violin, flute, classical guitar, 12-string guitar, tabla (one of my absolute favorite drum sounds in the world), pakhawaj (another Indian drum), sitar, congas, clay drums, hands (sure, why not), and some dulcimer for good measure. Guess it wasn’t such a quick list. And it’s all credited to members of the four-person ensemble.

You’d think the result would be cluttered or overwhelming, but there’s never too much going on at once. Just one thought-provoking small arrangement after another, each sonically distant enough from what came before that it feels like the music is constantly in motion. The album’s title strikes me as especially fitting in that sense.

Here’s the opening track, “Tide Pool.”

 

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Shy, Low

Some fun news for fans of post-rock and/or colored vinyl and/or flower arranging…

Shy, Low has repressed their 2015 gem Hiraeth, and they’re offering two snazzy colored-vinyl options: “Cowslip,” which is highlighter yellow with orange pinwheels, and “Forget-Me-Not” — a yellow-in-electric blue with white splatter design. Like the massive, cinematic music contained in the grooves, and like the floral cover art, they’re gorgeous. Take a look:

If I’m reading the Discogs descriptions correctly, my copy from the original run is the “Bell Heather” version — milky clear with a baby pink swirl. Is each variant representative of a flower depicted in the arrangement on the cover? Maybe? My ikebana has a long way to go.

I do know that it’s worth snagging copy over at Bandcamp before they’re all gone.

Update: The band shared the following via Facebook:

We also have some available locally and will have some for upcoming shows. Not many, so if you wait, you may lose out.

 

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Better Oblivion Community Center

A few words about “Chesapeake,” from the wonderful Better Oblivion Community Center album

Can’t stop/won’t stop listening to Better Oblivion Community Center, the collaborative LP from Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst. I’m especially stuck on “Chesapeake,” the sixth of the album’s 10 tracks. It’s an elegant examination of how music is passed from one generation to the next, and how the things that connect us can eventually foster alienation. There’s definitely some bitter mixed in with the sweet here, but the first four lines may be the most beautiful love letter to music I’ve ever read, and they don’t even mention music:

The world will not remember when we’re old and tired
We’ll be blowing on the embers of a little fire
We were the tallest person watching in Chesapeake
You put me on your shoulders so I could see

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The Louvin Brothers

The Wisconsin wing of my family visited Richmond over the weekend, and — calendars be damned — we did a full-on simulated Christmas morning. Vince Guaraldi. Bacon. Bloody Marys. Presents. Snow on the ground. The whole deal. And as we all know, nothing says Christmas like unwrapping an album called Satan Is Real. I’d been on the lookout for a copy since I listened to the incredible Cocaine and Rhinestones episode about the Louvin Brothers. Turns out these Wonderful Wisconsinites™ had gotten me the coveted translucent red Light in the Attic pressing. You can really feel the hellfire when you hold it. A passage from the liner notes on the back:

The fiery setting pictured on the cover of this album was conceived and built by the Louvin Brothers themselves, using chiefly rocks, scrap rubber, and lots of imagination. The scene became a little too realistic, though, when Ira and Charlie were very nearly burned while actually directing the photography for this dramatic cover photo.

I can’t even. I love it so much. The (very bonkers) title track is embedded below. Take a listen:

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Jerry Hahn

A late-breaking New Year’s resolution: To say a little something on here about the records I pick up, whether it’s at one of the many wonderful record stores in town or at a thrift store, which is where I found this 1973 Jerry Hahn album called Moses. I had a good feeling about it based on the cover, though my guess was that it was somewhere in the realm of folk or American primitive acoustic guitar music. Nope — straight up jazz-rock, with exceptionally clean and quick guitar playing throughout, and more wah-wah than you can shake a Les Paul at. (The photo on the back cover is of Hahn with the classic Gibson model in hand.) There’s a great version of Miles Davis’ “All Blues” from Kind of Blue, though the highlight for me — and this comes as a surprise — is probably his version of Donavan’s “Sunshine Superman.” I’ve never had strong positive or negative feelings about the song, and I never thought the application of wah-wah would be such a selling point, but Hahn uses the effect with an uncommonly deft touch — like writing with a pen as opposed to a marker — making the most of the pedal’s ability to mimic the human voice. See what you think:

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VOTE

Big day today. I bet many of y’all have already voted, but for those of you who haven’t or are on the fence, I want to add my voice to the many I’m sure you’re hearing saying things like “Vote!” and “Please vote!” and “This could be the most important midterm election in our nation’s history, so for crying out loud, PLEASE VOTE.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: Democracy works best when all of us are involved. Your vote matters. You matter. Please vote.

For those in Virginia: Here’s the information I typically share about what forms of ID you can bring to the polls, this time in the form of a handy YouTube video:

For those of you who have already voted and are nervously awaiting results, I thought I’d share some self-care music to get you through the day. (I know I’m a nervous wreck, and I’m leaning hard on tunes like these today.) Courtesy of a Mark Richardson tweet, here’s Charlie Haden and Hank Jones playing “Going Home,” which is based on a passage from Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9.

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